Almost 30 tattoos cover the arms of 23-year-old artist Nicole Leth. The feather, bird, and diamond designs pair well with cotton-candy-colored hair. Leth has always used her body as a canvas, but three years ago, she created a clothing line to extend her images of self-expression onto fabric. The line is called Sex and Ice Cream, and it represents Leth’s decision to love herself.
It all started when Leth was dating a boy she thought she was in love with. “We would have sex and then eat ice cream,” she says. “But he ended up cheating on me and breaking my heart.”
After the breakup, Leth decided she was worth more. She channeled her energy into something productive and became an intern at Raygun, a screen-print shop with several Midwest locations. That same year, while attending the Kansas City Art Institute, Leth got the idea for her brand. “Sex and Ice Cream symbolizes the first time I realized I was worth more than a relationship,” she says.
The first thing Leth ever designed was a piece of bra-printed fabric. The line has since expanded to patches, T-shirts, and hats that reference pop culture and girl power. Each piece in her collection has a true story behind it—from betrayal to first dates at Walmart.
When an idea strikes, Leth writes it down. Her diary is one of her favorites forms of expression, and it’s also how she came up with the image for Sex and Ice Cream.
“If I have a feeling, I’ll just write it out,” Leth says. “I also use my body as a diary. And every time I dye my hair, it’s because of an emotion I’m feeling. All my tattoos are to commemorate a feeling. And now I’m just letting myself be myself and feel what I need to feel.”
While Sex and Ice Cream is still young, Leth has already found success. Her brand has extended to select retail stores across the country, and in May, she’s planning to open Sex and Ice Cream’s flagship store in Kansas City, Missouri. The shop will be a fresh start.
“I don’t think it’s something I’ll ever regret, even if I flop and don’t ever sell anything,” Leth says. “Being able to think that I committed this much of my life to something that was just about me believing in myself would be enough.”